The Gruffalo (2009 TV Short)
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While the satellite channels have pretty much taken away the "big movie premiere" as an event on BBC at Christmas time, the BBC still have their usual weapons by their sides to ensure that people looking for easy festive distraction know they can come to them. As a result we do get several episodes of Eastenders but it does also mean special films of existing shows (such as Dr Who etc) which sometimes can be quite good, but also animated programmes. The usual big winner that everyone thinks of is of course Wallace & Gromit, but this year there was none of them but there was this charming little film sitting comfortably just before the end of David Tenant on Doctor Who.
Based on the very successful children's book (which I've not read), the rhyming dialogue of the mouse's speech appears to have made it as has the look and feel of the film since the animation is very close to what I have seen of the book. In terms of substance it is very simple but effective – you know where it is going but it has an easy delight to it that one cannot help enjoying. I'm not sure if it is from the book or not but I felt that the narrative device of having us be told the mouse's story via another story teller (and being able to see her audience while also be the audience ourselves) really did work to make it a bit more engaging. The cast is fairly packed with famous voices as well (and not just for UK viewers, which is normally how it works). Although I personally am yet to see what everyone likes about him, Corden does a good job as the mouse – despite the feeling that the BBC were putting him in everything (this was his first of three appearances at Christmas). He is quite restrained in his delivery, which suits the mouse and the clever little rhyming style of his speech. Carter's narrator is balanced and responsible, with Brydon, Hurt and Wilkinson doing good work in small bits as the predators. Coltrane is the only one that really makes an impression though, since his voice is quite distinctive and he plays up the gruff aspect of it. In terms of the stars, they are all good without being so good that it explains their involvement, but I suppose it helps the film and also represented an easy time commitment from them.
What really made it for me though was the animation. The film looks great but it does it in a way that never feels showy or like it is being done for the sake of it. In terms of bringing it to the screen it somehow manages to be impressive and detailed but yet also keep the rounded colourful nature that one would expect with a children's animated book. To me, the animation did more than the star names in terms of creating the characters and while the casting is a coup that catches the eye, the animators deserve a lot of credit as well.
Overall, a charming little delight – nothing to blow you away or having you rolling like Wallace & Gromit perhaps, but a simple enjoyable story told in a very effective and enjoyable way.
With a solid voice cast voicing the animals, the rhyming dialogue is sweet and never annoying.
The story of the mouse, as told by a mother squirrel to her two babies is episodic but suitably so. The jokes were funny and it was even somewhat dark in places where it needed to be.
The animation is probably not as polished as Lost and Found(2008) but has it's own caricatured, simplistic charm and is aesthetically faithful to the book(haven't read it, but have seen the cover).
Overall, an entertaining and amusing short about deception and survival done in a colourful and light way. I enjoyed it along with The First Snow of Winter, also based on a picture book, that has a similar tone, also featuring a 'big, bad' wolf. Good for young kids and the young at heart.
I liked a lot the aesthetic used for the characters in this short: Their cartoonish and stylish appearance made a good contrast with the realistic sceneries, resulting in something very pleasant.
The story itself was something very simple, but incredibly charming. All the characters included from this short were endearing and likable. This is a highly enjoyable animation for the whole family. I would recommend it to anyone.
The film is odd because it's is a story within a story. It begins with a mother squirrel (Helena Bonham Carter...who, incidentally, doesn't seem that squirrelly to me) almost being caught by a bird of prey. She scrambles into her nest and tells her children a story about a mouse and when he was captured by predators--and how the clever mouse escapes.
The film is extremely cute and enjoyable. However, the character animation seemed only fair--and compared to many other CGI films of the last few years it does not compare well. This does not detract horribly from enjoying the film and the film's backgrounds are quite nice. All in all, I have no other negatives about it other than the character design and I am sure young kids will love it.
UPDATE: I was surprised, but just moments ago I saw that "The Lost Thing" won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. To me, this was a surprise!
The animation style is charming, the characters work pretty good and the story unfolds cleverly, with distinct attention to many details. The ending had escaped me for a while, but I was able to look it up.
A great introduction to the many monsters of cinema for children, should they be interested. One nephew couldn't get enough of this. Me neither, really.
8 out of 10.
It is nominated for BAFTA awards, and it is very surprising that the film didn't get any awards for its astounding job.
I like the way the narrator makes the story to rhyme. And even though it is repetitive, it does not bother me.
A good full marks for this great short animation!
This is an excellent adaptation of a children's story about a mouse who is walking through the woods to get to a tree with acorns. It's told within a framing story of a mother squirrel telling the tale to her two children. Along the way, he outsmarts a fox, an owl and a snake who all thought the mouse looked good and invite him home for a meal.
The mouse being rather clever, he weaves a tale of a meeting with his friend, the Gruffalo, when everyone knows "there's no such thing as a Gruffalo". Everyone, that is, except for the fox, the owl, the snake-and the Gruffalo.
The mouse and the Gruffalo meet and the Gruffalo also thinks the mouse looks good, even though the mouse would scarcely make half a belch for the Gruffalo. The mouse, thinking fast on his feet, manages to snooker the Gruffalo and trick the other three all over again, as the three carnivores have met and compared notes on the mouse and his tale. Things end well for the mouse.
The voice cast is exceptional, particularly Helena Bonham Carter as the mother squirrel, James Corden as the mouse and Robbie Coltrane as the Gruffalo. This short is available on DVD and is well worth seeking out. Most highly recommended.
The animation style is interesting, and I just love the dialogue and voice acting. We have a four year old, and he just loves this film. At about a half-hour, it's not too long for kids that can't sit through an hour or longer movie without getting disinterested.
The music is beautiful as well. Very memorable and peaceful.
If you have a little one, I recommend this film - it's one of those 'kid' films that is just as fun for the parents to watch, thanks to all the little nuances put into it (like how every living thing except the mouse gets put through the food chain).
We see a little mouse pretending to be friends with that creature, a Gruffalo, whose favorite meal is fox, owl or snake depending on which enemy the mouse has to keep from making it their lunch. But what happens when the Gruffalo actually appears? All in all it's an entertaining half-hour feature and I'm okay with it being nominated for an Oscar. I'm not sure if it's better than the winner "The Lost Thing", but it definitely made a good watch. It's a bit of very a modern fable on the David-Golitah metaphor and the rhymes included and recited by Bonham Carter occasionally reminded me of the old Dr. Seuss animation.
The CGI woodland scenery looks fantastic - I'm not normally won over by 'graphics' but it really adds charm - and is supported by a brilliant musical score. As the dialogue (with the exception of some of the squirrel lines) follows the book, there isn't a huge amount. But what is there is done with personality and is memorable.
For those that don't know the story, its a simple but clever tale filled with imagination and bound to appeal to young kids and adults with a playful imagination.
Frankly, considering it's aimed at children of a highly susceptible age to such influences, the fact that this is well made horrifies me.
The author's intent was to create a children's book without purpose, at least I hope, but the result is something incredibly damaging to our society.
If you're going to censor what your children watch, I could name a hundred movies full of hardcore blood and violence that would give them a far better moral education.
Hell, Watership Down may have been brutal and had me cowering behind the sofa once a week in my years as a toddler, but at least it had integrity, and a point other than existing.
I'll give it a 5. 10 for quality, 1 for purpose/story.
The narration, rather the whole squirrel storyline ? It was a factor of thrill, yes. But in general I felt that it elongated the movie more than benefited it. Its start is strange, since obviously these kids need to eat, not to listen to a story. And when in its end they all have the food, without cunning or anything, then it's kind of bland and unnecessary.
The matter of the lead wanting to go to the nuts' big tree was left with no end. I felt that he, after the whole scheme, already reached it; as if it's an equal to his success. Or he could have eventually used the Gruffalo to do such a thing (while his running afraid lastly). By the way, I hated how the Gruffalo, despite all what he has seen of clues, wanted to eat the lead near the end ?? I see that it was just a lousy attempt to make a thrilling moment, which came out as forced and unbelievable.
While the characters are a memorable experience, the snake's design isn't. It was the weakest of them all, looking more like a character in a tacky puppet show! The pace is mostly fine, atmospheric and meditative, however I thought that the movie could have been shorter, especially the intro / opening credits which in fact fits a feature film. And finally, violet or not, I couldn't stand the matter of the wart on the Gruffalo's nose.. GROSS !
This is luscious and meaningful. But on the scale of 10 it stopped at 7. Hmmm, let's make it 8 due to its image then.
The longest of the Oscar animated short films this year, this one is a thirty minute adaptation of a children's book (of the same name) written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The film was adapted by Donaldson, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang. It was directed by Schuh and Lang as well. It features the voice talents of Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Robbie Coltrane and others. It tells the story of a mouse (Corden) who outwits a fox (Wilkinson), an owl (Hurt) and a snake (Roby Brydon), who are ready to eat him, by making up a more frightening creature called a 'gruffalo' to scare them with. He then is forced to outwit the very creature he thought he invented (Coltrane) upon running into it. The story is told by a mother squirrel (Carter) to her children. It originally aired on UK television in December of 2009 (which makes me wonder how it was still eligible for an Oscar nomination but I guess the same rules don't apply for short films as features). The film itself is charming and pleasant but certainly nothing groundbreaking or memorable. The animation is pretty basic and the story is routine kid's fare. It is a pleasant half hour cartoon that should please most children though, just not anything I'd expect to be up for an Oscar nomination.
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